Vital Romance

So I saw a series of tweets by author Tessa Dare that finally help me voice something that’s been bothering me about the accepted criticisms about romance for ages.

It’s also funny that she brought up horror, given that I’m a life long horror fan, but now branching out into my own horror fiction. I find horror comforting in a strange way, perhaps a thrill that can only come from things I am almost positive don’t really exist. It’s the same for romance- a relationship by proxy. The thrill of falling in love, the pain of heart break, the exploration of kinks and sex in general, all at a distance, at arm’s length. Literally. Perhaps that’s why I adore haunted house narratives- a family moving in, or two people begin to fall for each other, before some supernatural disaster strikes. Don’t Look Now is probably the most famous example, but I could bring up The Awakening (a criminally under rated, period haunted house movie). Something about romance under threat of ghosts or demons or similar, draws me in.

What that says about me is probably something I need to work out with my therapist, but if I were to examine it too closely and then send myself into a spiral of self-loathing, I’d probably come to the following conclusion…

I am drawn romance under the worst of circumstances, between two people who love each other, but who will ultimately end in tragedy. I seem to seek it out, almost unwittingly, I hope unwittingly, but I suppose it’s probably because I am some how unable to tell when a relationship is about to go sour? It might explain why I took the relationship in Reanimator entirely at face value to the surprise of literally every dude I told. I wasn’t supposed to apparently? Same with Crimson Peak (only a horror in the loosest sense), I was literally the only person in the world who did not see the… uh… Lannister twist (?) coming. I should have done. Perhaps its because I didn’t want to see it coming. Again, I seem to blunder into these things.

I guess it’s better to have this be a fictional habit than being drawn to the worst types of real life relationships. I’d rather be kink shamed about this to be honest.

I think I need a happy ending, but horror doesn’t always warrant one. I’ve yet to see a horror romance that I’m inclined to read in my local libraries expansive romance section. Well, that’s not entirely true, but it seems to be of the sub-Twilight variety. I don’t object to that per say, but it’s just not my cup of tea. I want it to end badly ta very much.

Why do I sound like I object to those tweets? I don’t, I wholeheartedly agree. I love romance, but so much of what’s out there just doesn’t cater to my rather particular tastes. Romance’s problem lies more within a lack of variety in the protagonist department and the unwitting endorsement of some, ahem rather rapey ‘heroes’? So much of the romantic fiction I read either contains a near rape scene by the hero or an antagonist, but that’s a separate discussion. My point is, I want scares, but ones that will draw the couple to seek comfort in each other. That tests their romance, finds out it’s strengths and weaknesses. I would say that the first season of American Horror Story covered this rather well, but, y’know, there’s only so many rape scenes I can sit through.

So, if I want the thrills of a romance tested under some pretty dire circumstances, why do I seemingly want it to end badly? Why can’t I hope for love to conquer the darkness?

I would say… because I have not really experienced real darkness in my life that wasn’t a product of my own ridiculous brain. No abuse, no early deaths… I’m the product of a comfortable life. Not so much that I can stomach depictions of sexual assault, I know too many people who weren’t as lucky as me, but still… If I were more actively inclined, perhaps I’d go rock climbing or back-packing, but I’m a home comforts sort of creature and I need to keep my thrills purely fictional. I won’t even go on roller coasters anymore.

So, is this where horror and romance intersect? A thrill for two things that are more paralleled than people like to admit? Or am I a masochist who’s too afraid to break out the hand cuffs for real?

Eh, probably both, but I’m okay with it. I think I’d rather be happy to watch two people lose each other through tragedy than actually experience it first hand. That, my friends, is where Tessa Dare’s tweets come up again- the darkness is very real and it is part of life. People need to escape it anyway they can. I indulge a perhaps rather self-destructive need by going head first into it. That is part of my privilege. I can dip my toe in whenever I like. One day, I might need to settle into a warm glow of a thrilling romance that ends well, but for now, I’m good.

Other’s aren’t so lucky. They need this to go well. Who the hell am I to judge? Romance of the dude nipples on the front cover variety gets people through some pretty shitty times, just read the replies to this thread. Romance needs to go further, expand it’s reach, bring more POC, queer couples, trans people, polyamory… y’know, the people who are normally left out. They are the ones who deserve happy endings, both in real life and in fiction. Fanfiction does this to, though that’s also a discussion for another day.

People like me can make believe tragedy. For everyone else, good God, let them have a happy ending guys. Let ’em laugh, to borrow Tessa Dare’s comedian analogy, because we will all probably need it one day.

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